Kansas never needs motivation when it faces archrival Missouri, but the Jayhawks should have some added incentive Monday.
The No. 16 Jayhawks look to move into a tie atop the Big 12 when they visit the 17th-ranked Tigers in the teams’ 260th meeting.
Kansas (19-4, 8-0) is off to its best start in conference play since the 2004-05 season, when it won its first 10 league games. Last season, the Jayhawks, who finished 37-3 and beat Memphis in the NCAA title game, won their first five games in Big 12 play before losing at then-No. 22 Kansas State.
Coach Bill Self’s team is beginning a rough stretch in which it plays three of its next five on the road - the away games coming against Missouri (20-4, 7-2), 16-7 Kansas State and No. 2 Oklahoma, which is a half-game ahead of the Jayhawks atop the conference.
The Sooners don’t play again until Wednesday, giving Kansas a chance to move into a first-place tie with them and push third-place Missouri further down in the standings.
“It gets harder from here,” Self said. “We’re as good as we can be as far the league races goes. Certainly, I’m really looking forward to going to Columbia. I think it will probably be as difficult a setting as we’ve played in all year, but we need that.”
The Jayhawks are coming off a 78-67 home win over Oklahoma State on Saturday. Mario Little scored 13 points and Kansas had three players finish with 12, including Cole Aldrich, who added a career-high 18 rebounds - 10 in the first half - for his 13th double-double of the season.
“Aldrich is good,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “He’s really good at that five-foot jump shot, jump hook. … We didn’t double-team as much as we normally probably would. But when you’re guarding a 6-foot-11 guy with a 6-foot-4, he’s going to shoot over you. And that’s what he did.”
Kansas has won five straight over Missouri and two in a row at Columbia.
The Tigers (20-4, 7-2), though, come in having won three straight and seven of eight. They’ve beaten both of their Top 25 opponents this season, defeating then-No. 19 Southern California on Nov. 23 and then-No. 16 Texas in Austin on Feb. 4.
Missouri beat Iowa State 82-68 on Saturday, as DeMarre Carroll scored a career-high 31 points and Kim English added 16 to help the Tigers reach the 20-win mark for the first time in six years.
“We had great focus going into the game,” said coach Mike Anderson, whose team tops the Big 12 with 84.2 points per game. “Our leadership and seniors stepped up, and we were focused on the game. It wasn’t easy, with this game in between Texas and Kansas. Twenty wins is something we haven’t done since I have been here.”
Missouri has won 15 consecutive home games, and it’s averaging 90.5 points at Mizzou Arena this season - third-highest in the nation at home. The Tigers, though, have been held to less than 75 points in three of their last four games against Kansas at Columbia.
Missouri’s last win in the series was an 89-86 overtime home victory Jan. 16, 2006. The teams meet again March 1 at Lawrence.